This week, we’ll look at an introduction to the book: the writer (Paul), his audience (the Galatians), and the issue Paul needed to address in his letter.
It must have been hard for the average Christian Jew to incorporate Christianity into their daily lives. Yes, they’d been waiting millennia for the Messiah. They understood Jesus’ death as the atoning sacrifice for sin and His resurrection that established Him as the divine Son of God. But what next? Does that mean to stop bringing animals to the Temple each year? Could they still celebrate Passover? What about circumcision? Eating pork?
That part of the Christian struggle has not changed in the last 2,000 years. Holding on to rituals as a way to garner my “in” with God, still sneaks into our Christian lingo. Living by faith is nice talk but don’t I have to do something to receive God’s favor?
Let’s put ourselves in the sandals of a Christian Jew.
Think about a time you were resistant to change. Why was it hard? What caused you to finally accept the change?
Paul was the first missionary to the world outside Israel. He used the strategy of talking to Jewish people first in a new city and then broadening out to include Gentiles. At first Jews were interested in what he had to say. Then, as Gentiles embraced the Gospel, the Jews became jealous and abusive.
Read Acts 13:13-14:20. Why do you think the Jews had a hard time accepting the Gentiles as fellow believers and heirs to the kingdom.
Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch are all cities in the area known as Galatia, which is part of Asia Minor or modern Turkey. You’ve probably heard of the Gauls – Asia Minor is the area they settled in the third century, B.C. Many Jews who had been displaced when the Assyrians overran Israel also lived in this region.
In his letter to those Christians living in Galatia, Paul contrasts the life lived by the law verses the life lived by faith, and the freedom we find when we live by faith in Christ. It’s easy to read Paul’s letter and wonder why the Jews struggled so much with incorporating the gospel message into daily life.
Why did the Jews try to influence Gentiles to take on Jewish practices?
Do we face the same difficulty?
Does the church of today burden new believers with extra expectations?
Do you ever wonder if you have worked hard enough for Jesus?
I know I have. When I talked to my minister’s wife about becoming a Christian, I told her I wondered if I would work hard enough in the church. It wasn’t until much later that I understood the concept of God’s freeing grace and that working hard in the church didn’t guarantee my salvation one bit.
How have you struggled with the temptation to work your way into God’s favor? What external expectations do you find yourself placing on other Christians?
If you feel your walk with Christ burdened with a list of do’s and don’ts, I hope you’ll join us each week as we study Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Our next lesson will look at Galatians 1:1-10.